Monday, May 25, 2015

Thrash, ping, plunge

You probably spotted this; I'm late on it, but I feel it deserves wider circulation. Sometime before the election campaign stepped up a gear, the BBC Director of News James Harding and his wife Kate Weinberg spent a "mixed girls and boys night" at a Russian banya in the basement of a block of flats just off the City Road in Islington.

The visit, in which the couple sequentially submitted to 'parenie', a thrashing with bundles of twigs in a steamy sauna, was written up by Kate for the Telegraph, with photographer Paul Grover in attendance. Is it a tad racy ? Or did the subs get to it ?

"Just as my husband gets comfortable... a huge young man with a glistening bare chest and a jaw that looks like its been squared off on a butcher’s block walks in twirling two bunches of leaves like an outsize cheerleader. It’s funny to watch; less funny when it’s my turn."

Then, Oleg arrives, twirling a fresh set of branches...

"The oak leaves rustle higher up and as Oleg whisks the branches over my back, my bikini top pings open. 'Special Russian technique,' says Oleg impassively and keeps on pummelling."

Ten minutes later, there's a bucket of iced water, which the photographer captures in modern Telegraph house-style, and then in to a plunge pool at 8 degrees centigrade.

"My husband manages to stay in for a few seconds, but when he emerges, red-faced with his mouth gulping for breath like a goldfish, I worry for a moment he’s going to have a stroke. In fact, the heat followed by extreme cold is supposed to have the opposite effect."

What can have driven the Hardings to such an entertaining night out ? This particular banya has been open for two years - but it did catch the eye of the BBC Business Team in March.

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